The best cruise insurance gives you comprehensive coverage for dozens of problems that could send your cruise plans off course. To find the best travel insurance for cruise vacations, our team of insurance experts analyzed 42 aspects of 53 travel insurance plans, scoring plans that cover COVID and offer missed connection coverage.
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- 2,332 coverage details evaluated
- 385 rates reviewed
- 5 levels of fact checking
- Medical expense benefits and emergency medical evacuation coverage are a priority for a cruise vacation. A medical evacuation by helicopter could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
- Missed connection coverage is essential for cruise insurance. The cost of catching up to your cruise if you miss embarkation can be steep.
- Consider paying extra for “cancel for any reason” coverage for the greatest flexibility to cancel your cruise travel plans.
Best cruise insurance plans of 2023
Best cruise insurance plans of 2023
What is cruise insurance and how does it work?
Cruise insurance is another name for travel insurance. If the trip you’re planning is a cruise, you might be looking for cruise insurance — but you’re really just looking for a comprehensive travel insurance policy with strong benefits for the potential problems that could mess up your cruising plans.
Cruise insurance works by reimbursing you for a certain percentage or dollar amount of the nonrefundable prepaid travel costs you lose if you experience a problem covered by your plan.
You can buy travel insurance through a cruise line, but experts warn this may be a mistake. The coverage provided may not be as comprehensive as travel insurance you can buy separately from a third-party provider, such as those in our best cruise travel insurance rating.
What is covered by cruise insurance?
Cruise travel insurance plans bundle together several types of coverage. Here are types of coverage you might care about most when you’re planning a cruise.
Trip cancellation insurance
Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you for 100% of your prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses when you decide not to travel for a reason your policy covers. Covered reasons vary by plan and the list can be extensive. It typically includes things like the death of a family member, illness or injury and natural disasters, to name a few.
“Cancel for any reason” (CFAR)
“Cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage typically reimburses you for up to 75% of your prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses when you decide not to travel for a reason your policy doesn’t cover, such as having a vague sense of uneasiness that makes you want to stay home.
This optional upgrade can increase the cost of your policy by 40% to 90%. It gives you increased flexibility with your travel plans, but only up to a point. You’ll need to cancel your trip at least 48 hours before your scheduled departure to file a successful CFAR claim.
Trip interruption insurance
This coverage reimburses you for as much as 150% of your prepaid, unused, nonrefundable trip expenses (sometimes even more) if you need to change your plans after departure for a reason your policy covers. Maybe you get sick at your destination and can’t enjoy the last two days of your itinerary and have to change your flight. Or maybe you need to cut your trip short because your teenager was in a car accident. Trip interruption insurance can cover the cost of a last-minute, one-way economy ticket to get you home.
“Interruption for any reason” (IFAR)
IFAR is an optional upgrade that only some travel insurance plans offer. This coverage reimburses you for up to 75% of your prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses when you change your travel plans after departure for a reason your policy normally wouldn’t cover. It also covers the cost of a last-minute flight home. Adding IFAR to your policy can increase the cost of your travel insurance by 3% to 10%.
Emergency medical expense
Travel medical insurance covers the cost of non-routine health care if you get sick, including contracting COVID-19, or being injured on your trip, up to your policy limit. It usually has no deductible.
When shopping for travel insurance, pay attention to whether the travel medical coverage is primary or secondary — if your U.S. health insurance won’t cover you outside of the country, it would be best to have primary coverage.
Preexisting conditions exclusion waiver
Most travel insurance excludes preexisting conditions from coverage unless you meet certain conditions and qualify for a waiver. A preexisting medical conditions exclusion waiver allows your emergency medical expense coverage to pay for treatment related to conditions you’ve been treated for in the months leading up to your trip.
To get pre-existing condition coverage, you’ll usually need to buy travel insurance within 14 to 30 days of making your first trip deposit, insure the full value of your trip and be medically able to travel.
Emergency medical evacuation
This covers the cost of emergency medical transportation to the nearest facility that can provide adequate care for your illness or injury.
Emergency medical evacuation insurance can pay to get you back to the United States if you’re abroad and can’t get the treatment you need there. It can also pay for a friend or family member to fly to you and stay with you if you’re receiving emergency care away from home.
Missed connections coverage reimburses you for additional costs to catch up with your itinerary after a transportation delay caused by weather, strikes, natural disasters or other covered problems.
This coverage applies to transportation by common carriers such as airlines, buses and trains. It refunds parts of your trip that you miss because of a common carrier delay.
Baggage and personal items loss
Baggage loss travel insurance reimburses you for lost, damaged or stolen personal items up to your policy limit. Look for caps per person, per item and per specific item.
Items will be reimbursed at their depreciated value and baggage loss coverage is typically secondary, which means you’ll have to file a claim with your common carrier — such as the airline that lost your bag — or homeowners insurance first.
Baggage delay coverage reimburses you for items you need to buy to tide you over until your bag arrives, up to the policy limit. This coverage kicks in after a delay of a certain number of hours, usually three to 12. Look for a policy with a short waiting period and high daily and per-person limits.
Travel delay insurance reimburses you for additional expenses such as meals, transportation and lodging you incur because of an unforeseen travel delay. The delay must last a certain number of hours before this coverage applies. Look for a policy with a short waiting period.
Do I need cruise insurance?
Cruise travel insurance is a good idea if you’ve spent more on a cruise than you can afford to lose. This coverage protects you financially from unforeseen events that can disrupt your plans, both before and during your cruise.
Travel insurance for cruises can provide coverage for a number of problems, including hurricane disruptions and medical emergencies at sea that may require you to be evacuated from the ship or port.
How to shop for the best cruise insurance
To choose the best cruise travel insurance for you, take a look at what coverage you have through the credit card you paid for your trip with, your health insurance and your homeowners insurance. See if this coverage adequately protects you financially from all the risks you’re concerned about. For example, Medicare is unlikely to cover you abroad.
Compare the types of coverage you have to what standalone trip insurance policies offer. Travel insurance is likely to be more comprehensive and might cover an important risk that hadn’t occurred to you.
“You’ll want to make sure that your policy includes both cancellation and interruption coverage as well as coverage for what we call post-departure problems,” said Daniel Durazo, director of external communications at travel insurance provider Allianz Partners USA. “Those can be as simple as lost or delayed baggage or as complex as serious medical emergencies. You’ll also want to check that your level of coverage of benefits is appropriate for your trip.”
How much does cruise travel insurance cost?
The average cost of cruise insurance is 5% to 6% of the value of your cruise vacation, which should include the cost of all prepaid, nonrefundable expenses such as flights and excursions.
How much you’ll pay for a cruise insurance plan will depend on factors such as:
- The coverage amounts.
- The value of your trip.
- The length of your trip.
- The age of the travelers in your group.
The cost of cruise insurance can vary greatly by company and plan, so it’s a good idea to compare plans before buying.
Average cost of cruise travel insurance policies
Our team of insurance experts compared cruise insurance rates for a variety of international trips and traveler profiles. These are the average costs of cruise insurance by plan.
Our insurance experts reviewed 42 aspects of 53 travel insurance plans using data from the travel insurance comparison website Squaremouth to find the best cruise insurance.
We only scored plans that cover Covid-related cancellation and medical expenses and missed connection coverage, which left us with 45 travel insurance plans to analyze.
The benefits we scored out of a possible 100 points include:
Cost: 50 points. We scored the average cost for each travel insurance policy — not including a “cancel for any reason” upgrade — for a variety of international trips and traveler profiles:
- Couple, age 30 for Mexico trip costing $3,000.
- Couple, age 40, for Italy trip costing $6,000.
- Couple, age 65, for Italy trip costing $6,000.
- Couple, age 70, for Mexico trip costing $3,000.
- Family of four for Italy trip costing $15,000.
Medical expenses: 10 points. Travel insurance plans that offer travel medical expense benefits of $250,000 or more per person were given the highest amount of points.
Medical evacuation: 10 points. Travel insurance plans with emergency medical evacuation benefits of $500,000 or more per person were given the highest number of points.
Missed connection coverage: 10 points. Plans with higher reimbursement levels for missed connections scored more points.
CFAR reimbursement level of trip cost: 10 points. Policies providing 75% reimbursement were awarded full points.
Trip interruption: 5 points. Travel insurance plans with trip interruption reimbursement of 150% or more were given points.
Pre-existing medical condition exclusion waiver: 5 points. Travel insurance plans that cover pre-existing medical conditions if the policy is purchased within the required timeline received points.
Why some companies didn’t make the cut
Travel insurance plans that don’t cover Covid-related medical expenses or don’t offer missed connection coverage were not considered. Of the 45 plans we scored, those with an above-average cost for cruise travel insurance did not make the cut unless they balanced the additional cost with exceptional benefits important to cruise travelers.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Yes, you can get travel insurance after booking a cruise. But it’s best not to put off this purchase.
“There are a handful of benefits that come with purchasing a travel insurance policy right after making an initial trip payment, with the major perk being maximizing the coverage period,” said James Clark, a spokesperson for the travel-insurance comparison site Squaremouth, which is also the company behind Cat 70 and Tin Leg travel insurance.
“When a travel insurance policy is purchased, it goes into effect at midnight of the next day,” Clark said. “This means that the longer travelers have the policy, the longer they have protection in the event that problems arise leading up to their trip.”
If you don’t have travel insurance and cancel your cruise, you might be eligible for a refund. It depends on the terms of your agreement with the cruise line.
A typical cruise refund policy might entitle you to a full refund if you cancel far enough in advance — which might mean 90 days or more before your departure date. If you want to cancel within 14 days of departure, you might not be able to get any refund at all. And if you cancel somewhere in between 14 and 90 days, you might get a partial refund.
You should be able to find the information you need in your booking confirmation email (if you’ve already booked your trip) or on the cruise ship’s website. If you booked your cruise through a travel agent, ask your agent about the refund policy that applies to your trip.
For the most flexibility to cancel your cruise, look into “cancel for any reason” travel insurance.
More: Should you buy travel insurance through a cruise line?
Yes, your credit card may provide some travel insurance for a cruise. However, the coverage might be limited. For example, your credit card may not provide any medical coverage.
“Cruise travelers should look for a product that offers high coverage limits for trip cancellations and for medical emergencies,” Durazo said. “In the unlikely case that you become seriously ill or injured far from home, you’ll also need enough emergency medical transportation coverage to get you safely to an appropriate medical facility, even on an air ambulance if necessary.”
Compare the trip insurance that’s included with your credit card with standalone travel insurance policies. Standalone policies tend to be more comprehensive and offer more coverage. You’ll pay for these benefits, of course, but the cost may be worth it. You won’t know unless you compare your options.
It’s best to do this comparison before booking your trip or as soon as possible after booking. Certain aspects of standalone travel insurance policies only apply when you buy the policy far enough in advance of your departure date.
Our top-scoring cruise travel insurance plans do not have a deductible for any type of coverage, including travel medical insurance.
To learn whether there are deductibles for a specific cruise insurance plan you are considering, ask for a sample policy to review before making a purchase. Then, just to make sure you have the coverage you want, review your actual insurance contract issued directly to you by the carrier as soon as you buy the policy.
“Don’t hesitate to call your insurance provider if you have questions about your policy,” Durazo said. “You should have up to 15 days to adjust your policy, exchange it for a different product or even cancel it for a full refund.”
If there is any conflict between what an insurance provider tells you and what your contract says, the contract is what you should rely on.
Important cruise-specific travel insurance coverages to look for include:
- Emergency medical. Squaremouth recommends at least $100,000 in travel medical benefits.
- Emergency medical evacuation. Squaremouth recommends at least $250,000 in emergency medical evacuation benefits.
- COVID-19. All of the insurers in our best cruise insurance rating offer medical coverage for COVID.
- Missed connection. All of the companies in our best cruise insurance rating offer missed connection benefits. TravelSafe Classic and Nationwide Cruise Luxury each offer $2,500 per person after a three-hour delay.
Cruise insurance typically covers hurricanes, as long as the storm is not named until after you buy the policy, making it an “unforeseen” event.
Trip cancellation insurance can reimburse you if bad weather at home or at your destination prevents you from taking your trip.
Cruise insurance will cover the cost of prepaid, nonrefundable shore excursions, as long as you include them in the value of the trip you are insuring.
Your travel insurance can cover any prepaid cruise expenses that are nonrefundable, including food and beverage packages and onboard entertainment.
More cruise insurance resources
Editor’s Note: This article contains updated information from previously published stories: